The Dodge Journey neatly splits the difference between a wagon and a more upright crossover or SUV. Though it flies mostly under the radar, the Journey has been steadily improving over the years and is now a competent crossover, offering seating for up to seven passengers.
With smart packaging and a far nicer interior, plus better roadholding and handling than the original, today’s Journey is more flexible than five-seat competitors and includes a lot of features for the price. While it sells in roughly the price range of compact crossovers, it’s dimensionally larger–meaning you get more car for the money. Larger families may find it suits their needs without the thirst for fuel and sheer on-the-road bulk of larger seven-seat mid-size crossovers like the Toyota Highlander or the much longer Nissan Pathfinder.
Like the rest of the package, the Journey’s styling strikes a nice balance between wagon and SUV. It has its own look in the crossover space, and nicely blends some minivan practicality into something with a more interesting shape. The look isn’t totally out there, but different enough to avoid that same-old-family-vehicle styling rut. Inside, the Journey follows a smooth, swoopy look and simple layout, with large dials and knobs and an LCD touchscreen framed by high-quality materials. While its profile may look a slab-sided, the chiseled sheetmetal and flared wheelwells feel refreshing and different in an era of crossovers that typically skew to either the very boxy or incredibly curvaceous ends of the spectrum. Its square shoulders, crosshair grille and smartly embossed fenders make it look at least a little athletic, especially considering its compact size.
The Journey’s base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder good for 177 hp. It is mated exclusively to an aging four-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. Although rated for slightly better gas mileage, this engine feels strained most of the time. The step-up engine is a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 283 hp; power is routed through a six-speed automatic to either the front or all four wheels. The V-6 is much more modern, quieter, and has plenty of power to move the Journey around.
The Journey’s handling is reasonably responsive. Chrysler recently reworked the suspension to include stiffer, better-responding shocks and a lower ride height in front, and it’s honed some of the duller responses the Journey had in its initial model years. The ride quality remains a strong point, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle, but the rather quick steering ratio feels a little out of place.
Dodge and Chrysler clearly applied some of its long-honed expertise with minivans to the Journey’s interior, as people and cargo really fit well and there are plenty of smaller spaces for personal items, toys, and accessories. Front seats are what we’d best describe as ‘American-sized’—think wider than most. Back-seat accommodations are among the best you’ll find in any vehicle this size, and the seats are contoured to fit adults; the seatback is adjustable for rake, and the whole bench slides fore and aft a few inches, so it’s easy to get comfortable back there. The rear seat folds fully flat, and under the rearward portion of the cargo floor there’s a huge space vast enough for a couple of laptop bags.
The Journey is offered in an extensive lineup, with AVP (American Value Package), SE, SXT, Crossroad, Limited, and R/T models. You’ll need to step up to SE models to get the V-6 engine or all-wheel drive. But even with the base model you get power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; pushbutton start; a cooled glove box; a telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player. Bluetooth isn’t included on the base model, but it is a $395 option. Seven-passenger seating is available even on the base model, while you’ll need to get the SXT to get the UConnect media center option. That includes an 8.4-inch touch-screen that at the top of the lineup can combine with a Garmin navigation system. Sirius Satellite Radio and TravelLink features are available, along with a premium audio system.
Safety has been another strong point. The NHTSA awards the Journey four stars overall, while the IIHS has given it “good” ratings, though the Journey hasn’t been put through all of its newer tests.
Changes for 2015 are few. Models equipped with the 8.4-inch touch-screen display include five years of free Sirius XM Traffic and TravelLink. Formerly optional 17-inch aluminum wheels are now standard on Journey SE AWD models, previously a $595 option. And there are some new paint options: Billet Silver Metallic and Blue Streak Pearl.
Inside, the Journey has a smooth, swoopy look. The layout is simple, with large dials and knobs framed by high-quality materials. Open the Journey’s door, and a bolt of metallic trim directs you quickly across a more softly sculpted dash, with suave finishes and tight fits. The contoured center stack gets mixed in with round cut-tube gauges and a blocky steering wheel, and it all hangs together, along with a big LCD screen (on some versions) and no-fuss climate controls that ride sidesaddle on that strip of bright trim. Although the interior materials are dark, there’s enough well-placed brightwork to break it up and also give it a slightly more upscale feel.
The Dodge Journey offers power with a modicum of economy, as long as you choose the right engine.
The Journey isn’t the right option for those looking for top-shelf fuel economy or a four-cylinder engine. The standard engine is a rough, 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a four-speed automatic that disappoints in virtually every way possible. It’s just not powerful enough to move the Journey with confidence. The four-cylinder, if you’re still interested, is available only with front-wheel drive.
The V-6 model is the one to aim for. Its 3.6-liter ‘Pentastar’ engine produces 283 hp and is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. That six-speed works well when you’re really pushing the Journey, but we’ve experienced some shuddering in stop-and-go traffic. The six is required for all-wheel drive, but it’s also available with front-wheel drive.
The Journey’s handling is reasonably responsive. Its suspension loads and unloads confidently, like that of a lower and leaner vehicle, and there’s none of the excessive bounding or wallowing when you hit a bump mid-corner with some taller crossovers. The ride quality remains a strong point, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle. And while the hydraulic-assist steering system gets it right with weighting, the rather quick steering ratio feels a little out of place in a vehicle this size, and with this purpose.
Acceleration and Power
The base 2015 Dodge Journey has a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a four-speed automatic transmission. A 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 283 horsepower is available, which is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. With an EPA-estimated 19/26 mpg city/highway, the base 2015 Journey earns some of the poorest fuel economy estimates in the class.
The 2015 Dodge Journey comes with a 4.3-inch Uconnect touch-screen radio, a USB port, heated mirrors, push-button start and dual-zone air conditioning. Optional features include tri-zone automatic climate control, a Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, satellite radio, hands-free text messaging, navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system with a 9-inch screen, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and remote start.
The Dodge Journey seats five, or seven with an optional third-row seat. Cloth upholstery and reclining second-row seats are standard. Leather upholstery, a six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, tilting and sliding second-row seats, reclining third-row seats and heated front seats are optional. Second-row built-in child booster seats are also available, and reviewers say they are a convenient option for families. A few test drivers also report that there is good forward visibility from the driver’s seat. However, some say that the front seats could be more supportive, and that the steering wheel may not be within easy reach of taller drivers. According to critics, the Journey’s second row is adult-friendly, but its third row best accommodates children.